Heart Attack vs. Cardiac Rest: Why They’re Not the Same

The terms heart attack and cardiac arrest are often thought to mean the same thing. While they have overlapping symptoms, the two medical terms actually reflect two very different conditions with different causes and treatments.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs as a result of a blocked artery impeding blood flow to a section of the organ. The result is a lack of oxygen-dense blood that weakens the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. In the long run, the heart muscle can be permanently damaged if the heart doesn’t receive critical nourishment. The common symptoms associated with a heart attack include:
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sweating
  • Heart pounding
  • Arm or jaw pain
  • Wheezing or coughing

What is Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest occurs when there is a malfunctioning of the electrical signals that regulate heartbeat. When this happens, the heart beats erratically or stops pumping altogether. This leads to the heart being unable to pump blood to the rest of the body. The result is losing consciousness and lack of pulse alike. Cardiac arrest is fatal because if the patient doesn’t receive timely treatment, death follows. The origin of many cardiac arrests is usually a heart attack that has not been treated or managed. However, cardiac arrest can also be triggered by a potassium imbalance, a clot in the lungs, drug overdose, or an intense blow on the chest. In addition to that, heart failure, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy are the root causes of the ailment. The signs that you might be having a cardiac arrest are as follows:
  • Palpitations
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Chest inflammation
  • Collapsing

Responding to a Heart Attack

If you feel any chest pain, it is vital to seek emergency treatment. The best approach is to call 911 for medical assistance and request an ambulance. While your symptoms may not seem severe at first, calling an ambulance can make a difference, because an ambulance crew can provide oxygen, CPR and other measures that can keep you stable until you can get to a hospital. While you’re waiting, you can chew on aspirin to alleviate the pain. Remember, the longer you delay treatment, the more likely you are to suffer permanent damage to the heart. If you live alone, contact a neighbor or nearby caregiver so someone can be with you to help you manage symptoms. They may also be able to stay on the line with the 911 operator to get instructions and give you CPR if you lose consciousness. Having a medical alert system can be invaluable because the operator can contact emergency services and a nearby neighbor or caregiver. The operator can also stay on the line to ensure that you get the help you need as quickly as possible.

Responding to Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest often happens without warning, making it dangerous. You should call 911 as well to ask for immediate help. Having a medical alert system with fall detection can be especially helpful because the operator can contact help, even if you fall and lose consciousness. If someone is with you, they may need to administer CPR or use an emergency defibrillator. Ultimately, prevention surpasses cure at all times, and that is why it is prudent to visit a doctor regularly. The expert will diagnose the illness and inform you about the treatment.